FIRST IMPRESSIONS After arriving at LHR T3 nice and early at 0800 via the Piccadilly Line, I went to check-in zone G. There was just one couple in the business class line and I was called to another available desk. I was given my boarding pass and told that my bag would be checked all the way through to Xi’an, and that the Cathay Pacific lounge and fast track security would be available to me.
I went upstairs and through fast track. It wasn’t the quickest, but I was through at 0830 and made my way towards the lounge.
THE LOUNGE Finnair uses the Cathay Pacific lounge, located near gate 11 and accessed via an elevator. The lounge is basic, with partial runway views, buffet dining and shower facilities. I found the lounge a disappointment compared to the SAS facility located next door, which is split level with a good selection of food, a business center and TV area.
There were newspapers and magazines, comfortable seating and a small breakfast selection, including congee, noodles and some full English items such as sausages, beans and scrambled eggs. There is a coffee machine and soft drink selection so I grabbed a coffee and a small pastry before logging on to the wifi (password: CX8). The lounge was extremely quiet, with a dozen or so passengers. I worked for an hour and left for gate 27 at 0930 for a 0945 boarding time.
BOARDING There was no priority to get into the departure lounge but the queue was short and there were three members of staff. Boarding began at 1000 but two large queues quickly formed, there was some policing of entry but it is very difficult to enforce, especially with one member of staff and a great number of Chinese passengers.
I was turned away when I reached the front and told they were not boarding the early rows yet. I apologised and explained that I thought they had called business class earlier, but the staff member was already busy checking someone else in, before asking me what I said and then apologising and letting me board.
THE SEAT I chose 9A, a window seat (my preference) online the day before departure. The seat is fairly narrow and is upholstered in smart grey material. There is extra knee space as the magazine pocket is at the top of the seat. As I was in an emergency exit seat I had lots of room to spread out and my tray table came out of the right hand armrest.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE Seat 9A was a good choice due to the bulkhead legroom and a window. Yes, you are served last but on these short hops you won’t be deprived of a meal and there isn’t a choice. Row 1 would be preferable if you want to make a quick getaway, but if you are after space then 8/9 are the rows to go for.
THE FLIGHT Doors closed at 1020 and we took off at 1045, 25 minutes after the scheduled departure. There is a camera mounted on the belly of the aircraft which gives a great view during takeoff, and is displayed on small overhead screens. These then played a documentary about the making of the computer game FIFA 12, with English subtitles.
Business class is configured 3-3 with the middle seat blocked off. Row 8 is 2-2 with extra legroom, but there is no spare middle seat (to see a seat plan, click here. Note: they had extended business class to row 9 on this flight).
Hot towels were handed out at 1100 and the lunch service began soon after. Service was slow but very friendly from the two female attendants, and reached me at 1145.
Lunch consisted of a plate of ravioli in a tomato sauce with pine nuts and cheese, which was delicious and filling, along with a selection of bread, a piece of poached salmon with cucumber and a small box of Godiva chocolates. A full drinks service, including champagne, was offered and tea and coffee followed. I had a coffee and enjoyed the chocolates but unfortunately the coffee was cold.
Trays were cleared at 1245 and I settled in to read for the remaining hour or so of the flight. The tray table was pretty bouncy but could take the weight of my laptop when I wanted to do some work, and I could utilise the spare middle seat tray table to place my drink while I worked.
The pilot kept us well informed as to our progress and the weather in Helsinki and we started our descent at 1230.
ARRIVAL We landed at 1305 (UK time) and there was an issue with the stair car so we had to wait on the tarmac for 15 minutes before disembarking in the rain. It was a short journey up one escalator for the Finnair lounge where I was meeting some colleagues before my connecting flight at 1740, so I had around an hour and a half to kill.